Griddlers, flapjacks, griddlecakes, hotcakes, latkes, crepes, pancakes: I love ’em all. Especially when they’re made with flavorful flour from wild and unusual grains or home-grown starchy vegetables. But, what I don’t love is the heavy, or gummy texture you tend to get with such ingredients. With years of experimenting, I’ve found a few “tricks” that get a light fluffy texture with all the added flavor and nutrition.
And while these make delicious cakes, especially with real tree-sap syrup (Maples aren’t the only game in town, you know) and heaped with forest berries, what I really love is the convenience they represent to homesteaders and foragers who want to quickly convert the produce they grow and gather into easy, filling meals with minimal preparation and processing. On the homestead or farm, time is always at a premium, which is partly why, from my experience working on farms and with a farmers’ markets, the average farmer I’ve met probably eats more fast food and frozen meals and fewer fresh vegetables than the average American.
The humble pancake is an “appropriate” culinary technology of the past that can be surprisingly versatile and provide an easy, quick meal “staple” that helps “solve’ the problem, getting more nutritious produce onto the table in time for dinner.
Through most of the growing season, a wide variety ingredients can be added to these pancakes. We’ve tried including wild grass seed, wild amaranth seed, cattail pollen, buckwheat and other home-grown grains, zucchini, squash, and flours made from a variety of roots including sunchokes and potatoes. Grated vegetables such as beets, parsnips, zucchini, and potatoes can also be added. All wild grasses produce edible seed and can add an interesting set of flavors. Large grained species can be finely ground in a coffee grinder. The best can add a fantastic “nutty” or floral flavor to pancakes.
Better still, pancakes make the perfect excuse for eating the various berries that start arriving in June and running through most of the summer.
So, before we get to a l recipe, the main “trick” involved is getting more air bubbles into the batter to lighten them up. This recipe uses egg whites whipped to a meringue, which capture air into the finished cakes. Any vegan product that can be similarly whipped can be used as a substitute. For a homegrown vegan approach, stay tuned, we’ll be experimenting soon on a recipe that uses boiled marshmallow root. Another alternative is to use carbonated water or other beverages. With really heavy cakes, I’ve sometimes used both meringue and carbonated water.
So, here are a few base recipes. The key is experimentation. No single recipe is going to work with every single ingredient you can think of, but these should be a good starting place.
Recipe: multi-grain pancakes.
1 cup white wheat flour
1 cup whole grain non-wheat flour. (This could include buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, wild grass flour, root vegetable flour, or any other whole grains. This could also include 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup of grated or cooked vegetables such as squash or zucchini.)
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 C milk (possibly more)
Oil or butter to cook with (no oil is added to the batter, as that tends to make the multi-grain cakes to heavy.)
Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add 1 C milk and vanilla and mix. Don’t over mix! Separate egg whites, adding the yolks to the mix and placing the whites into a second mixing bowl or beer glass.
Whisk until soft peeks form.
Gently spoon this meringue into the batter making sure the air bubbles are well distributed:
This will be a thick batter. Add enough milk to get a batter that will spread out to your desired thickness.
Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add a pat of butter or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the a pan. Butter or oil should sizzle and brown, but not smoke. Add batter and role around pan until you get the size pancake you want. Wait until edges are starting to firm up and look cooked, then flip the pancake. Serve hot with maple syrup and fresh berries!